Guest commentary: Two cases highlight the success of workforce training

Storm_White_CroppedSu Dung and Kyaw Naing cropped

By Agnes Ubalde and Elena Anaya

Storm White completed training in digital graphic design and secured a competitive internship with a national advertising agency. Training at Youth Radio, funded by the Oakland Workforce Investment Board, helped her put what she visualized in her head on the screen, as well as developing professional and organizational skills for success. White was recently the lead in a team that won My Brother’s Keeper hack-a-thon with the MyStudyBuddy app to assist Peralta students.

When Kyaw Naing came to Lao Family Community Development, he had just lost a $15-an-hour job as a forklift operator due to a plant closure. Concerned about saving for his daughter’s education, he enrolled in a training program that helped him communicate more effectively in job interviews and with co-workers. His new employer, a specialty food manufacturer, paid a bonus that they spent on their daughter, because, “She’s a teenager now and they want things.” As a certified forklift driver, he works nights while his wife works days, so that their daughter has a parent nearby.

White and Naing are just two of thousands of workers making the most of the Oakland Workforce Investment Board’s unique partnerships.

The OWIB’s strategic plan will fund targeted sectors such as trade and logistics, health care, advanced manufacturing, and information and communications technology which offer employment at a variety of levels. New funding will come into Oakland for health care training, thanks in part to support provided by the Oakland WIB. The Bay Area Workforce Funding Collaborative is providing a $150,000 seed grant to develop partnerships between Merritt College, Oakland Unified School District, the Unity Council, Alameda County Health Pipeline Partnership, Urban Strategies Council and our Board in the Bridge to Healthcare Careers Program.

The Bridge program will familiarize participants with the health care industry, high-demand occupations, and the foundational skills necessary for success on the job. A contextualized training curriculum will help students strengthen English and math skills while acquiring college credit on an allied health career pathway, opening the door to postsecondary education and employment in the region’s vibrant health care sector. Enrollment begins this fall for 30 unemployed residents, ages 18 to 24. Academic and employment counseling services will support program participants in work-based learning. Financial incentives and matching funds will support employers in the costly process of training new employees.

During the 2015 program year, the Oakland WIB will conduct a transparent and accountable process to contract with local training organizations. The new federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act mandates more regional planning, attention to youth disconnected from school or employment, and services to young workers with disabilities.

These efforts are all part of Oakland’s expanding initiative to assist residents in securing new jobs and fruitful careers in a changing economy. Working together, our community can use best-in-class strategies and proven methodologies to ensure workers for growing companies and careers for our future. To add your voice as an employer, worker or job seeker, take the Oakland WIB’s new online survey at

Agnes Ubalde is chair of the Oakland Workforce Investment Board and serves as vice president and community development officer for Wells Fargo Bank. Elena Anaya is vice chair and serves as community affairs director, Northern California for Turner Construction.

Oakland Tribune My Word © 2015 Bay Area News Group

Updated: 04/09/2015 05:39:56 AM PDT